Viewing entries tagged
success stories

Kicking the Habit of Overspending


Kicking the Habit of Overspending

Does the arrival of your monthly credit card bill strike fear into your heart?  Have you ever discovered that your checking account is empty without knowing where your paycheck could have possible gone so quickly?  Do you have more new pairs of shoes in your closet than you can count?  If you answered yes to any of these questions then you may have a problem with overspending.

Overspending is one of the most common causes of poor credit scores and unbalanced budgets.  Of course, typically consumers do not set out to overspend; however, without a solid plan for spending it is easy to find yourself in the uncomfortable situation of having more bills than money over and over again.  When you find yourself short on cash that is when bills get paid late (or not at all) and credit scores begin to slip.

Keep in mind, over-spenders are not bad people!  Our team of credit experts at HOPE4USA has helped many, many people to overcome credit problems, a sizable percentage of whom arrived at those credit problems due to overspending. The good news is that if these clients were able to fix their overspending problems and turn their credit reports back around then it is possible for you to do the same.  Here are a few tips to get you started on kicking the habit of overspending:

1.) Write down every dollar you spend for the next 2 weeks.

Analyzing your spending habits is the first step to help you find out if you have an overspending problem and, if so, how severe the problem has become.  Wives and girlfriends, if you are asking your spouse or boyfriend to track their spending you may want to note that men are typically a little more resistant to doing so. My suggestion? Make it easy for them!  Give him a simple 3X5 card to keep in his wallet. Just ask him to jot down the amount spent and where he spent it if he does not want to save receipts. You will still get the basic information you need this way and he may be more likely to follow through with your request.

2.) Make a spending plan (in writing) and stick to it.

You may be wondering, “What exactly is a spending plan?”  A spending plan is a written list of your monthly income (paycheck, alimony, child support, etc.) and your monthly expenses (rent, utilities, car payment, etc.).  In other words – it is a budget.  You can even CLICK HERE to download a free copy of the HOPE4USA Basic Budgeting Worksheet - no strings attached. The key is to get started. (Note: if you are a current HOPE4USA client you can ask your case manager to review your completed budgeting worksheet offer advice and suggestions. Talk about a great membership perk!)

3.) Trim the fat from your spending plan.

Once you have reviewed your 2 week spending list and completed your budget worksheet, look for areas where spending can be cut.  Now, I’m not talking about sucking all the fun out of your life so be sure to resist the urge to respond negatively to this suggestion.  However, I am suggesting that you make a plan to get the things that you really want out of life (i.e. a new home, a new car, college education for children, family vacations, etc.) by figuring out what you can live without in the present. You may be able to find hundreds of extra dollars per month by reducing cable TV plans, cell phone plans, entertainment expenses, eating out expenses, or shopping.  Don’t be afraid to take an honest look at your spending habits and see if a change can and should be made.


Michelle Black is an author and a credit expert with over a decade of experience, the credit blogger at, a recognized credit expert on talk shows and podcasts nationwide, a contributor to the Wealth Section of Fort Mill Magazine, and  a regularly featured speaker at seminars up and down the East Coast. She is an expert on improving credit scores, credit reporting, correcting credit errors, budgeting, and recovering from identity theft. You can connect with Michelle on the HOPE4USA Facebook page by clicking here. 



Adopting the Perfect Attitude to Reach Your Goals!

Fort Mill Magazine - Spring 2013
Fort Mill Magazine - Spring 2013

Please take a few moments to read a truly inspiring story, featured in the Spring 2013 edition of the Fort Mill Magazine (pages 50-53). The story is written by HOPE Credit Expert, Michelle Black, about an amazing couple who recently graduated from the HOPE Program. We believe you will find their story to be as encouraging and uplifting as we do!

Adopting the Perfect Attitude to Reach Your Goals

At HOPE (Home Ownership Program for Everyone) we have a slogan, “Bad credit happens to good people all the time.” I believe that statement to be 100% true, but it has never been any MORE true than in the case of recent HOPE graduates, Todd and Melissa Melton. Their story is one of selflessness, extreme generosity, and love. Over the past 12 years in my field as a credit expert I have never been so happy to assist a family in overcoming credit issues, nor have I ever felt so personally inspired afterwards.

Todd and Melissa, teenage sweethearts who married in 1994, always knew they wanted a family. A little over 5 years after being married Melissa gave birth to Brandon, a blonde haired, blue-eyed, beautiful baby boy who stole mommy and daddy’s hearts at first sight. As Brandon grew older Todd and Melissa wanted to grow their little family of 3 and they hoped to give Brandon, aka Bam Bam, a baby sister. However, the years passed and Melissa was unable to conceive again. In 2007, Melissa had to undergo a total hysterectomy due to a severe case of endometriosis which she had battled for 6 years. Still, Todd and Melissa knew that their family was not yet complete. They didn’t want Brandon growing up without a sibling.

Since Melissa could no longer carry a biological child of her own, the Meltons began to consider adoption. Previous full-time missionaries with Ambassadors to the Nations, Todd and Melissa first began to research adoptions from China where so many baby girls are born unwanted due to China’s strict one-child policy. Shockingly, Todd and Melissa soon learned that the cost to adopt a baby from China was close to $30,000 – a price that was, unfortunately, out of reach. Still desiring to adopt, Todd and Melissa looked into adoption through foster care in their county. Upon learning about the large number of local children in need of foster homes they promptly applied and were approved to be foster parents. From 2008 - 2011 the Meltons were able to care for and love a total of 7 precious foster children.

In 2009 Todd and Melissa became foster parents to 2 children - an 8 month old baby girl, Shyann, and her 3 year old brother, Isaiah. Shyann and Isaiah’s other 2 siblings, Nathan and Elijah, were being fostered by 2 separate families as well. Then in 2010 a baby girl, Summer, the biological sister of Shyann, Isaiah, Nathan and Elijah, was born and placed with the Meltons at the age of 3 months. In total, there were 5 siblings being cared for by 3 foster families. When the children were finally cleared for adoption in 2011, the Meltons were the only family out of the 3 foster families involved who was able to adopt all 5 children. Yes, their plan was originally to adopt one little girl, but Todd, Melissa, and Brandon had fallen in love with their foster children and couldn’t imagine them being permanently separated from their siblings, or living with anyone else for that matter either. Their little family of 3 had suddenly become a large family of 8!

Shortly after the adoption was finalized, the Melton family was nominated to receive a home from Extreme Makeover Home Edition for their newly enlarged family. In fact, the Meltons were not merely nominated, but they later learned that they were one of the 5 finalists selected to receive a brand new home! Todd, Melissa, and all of the children attended the pre-show rally for Extreme Makeover Home Edition at Belmont Abbey College. The fact that the rally was held at Belmont Abbey College seemed like a good sign since Todd was a student there. (Todd ultimately graduated in May of 2012 with honors from the college receiving his BA in education – no small feat considering that he also worked full time, volunteered at his local church as the children’s church pastor, and was father to a family of 8 all while keeping up with a full time college student’s coursework!)

On the night before Extreme Makeover Home Edition would go to the winners’ home Todd and Melissa sat down with their children. “We explained to them there was a chance that we would be chosen to receive a new, bigger home that next morning,” says Melissa. “But, we also told them that even if we were not chosen we knew that God still had a better plan in store for our family of 8.” Everyone woke up extra early the next morning, a Sunday, and got dressed for church as they did every week. “We knew when they weren’t at our house by a certain time that we weren’t the chosen family. So, we stopped and prayed together. We thanked God for the family that was chosen (in Lincolnton only 20 minutes from our home) and we went to our church, Freedom Christian Center of Charlotte” recalls Melissa. “A lot of our friends were very disappointed, but we were at peace. We really were very excited for the family that was chosen.”

Since more space was still desperately needed, Todd and Melissa decided to try to buy a larger home. Unfortunately, they soon discovered that a home large enough for their family of 8 was way out of their price range, especially since Todd was now the sole breadwinner with the task of caring for such a large family making it impossible for Melissa to continue working outside of the home. So, instead of buying a new home Todd and Melissa would build on to their existing home. By adding a 2nd level to their one-story house the Melton family could add an additional 4 bedrooms, 2 more bathrooms, and an extra laundry room – a great necessity if you have ever tried to do laundry for a family of 8! It was the perfect plan, a more affordable way to provide their family with the space they needed to thrive. Blueprints were purchased, a contractor was found, but when Todd and Melissa went to apply for the construction loan they hit yet another road block. They learned that their credit scores were not high enough to qualify. This was rather surprising because Todd and Melissa always worked hard to maintain good credit and took their financial responsibilities seriously. However, Melissa was uninsured during her 6 year battle with endometriosis and her hysterectomy and we all know how astronomically expensive medical bills can quickly become. The other factor that negatively affected their credit scores was a simple mistake. Todd and Melissa had worked hard to pay off several of their credit card accounts. After paying off the debt, they closed the accounts, believing that to be the right thing to do. What they didn’t realize was that closing those old, seasoned credit lines would drop their credit scores significantly.

You have probably figured this out by now, but Todd and Melissa Melton are not quitters. When they learned that their credit scores were not high enough to qualify for the construction loan they needed they decided to do something about it. Here is where I come into the story. Melissa contacted HOPE for professional credit restoration assistance. The Meltons began working with our team immediately and, before long, their credit scores had increased tremendously! Melissa says, “We would encourage anyone whose credit doesn’t seem to have any hope to contact the HOPE Program! Don’t think it’s impossible to bring your dreams to pass because of low credit scores. HOPE can help your dreams to come true just like they helped our family. Because of the team at HOPE our scores have increased and construction begins on the 2nd level of our home next week!”

Todd and Melissa are a shining example of why we should never give up on our dreams. No matter what setbacks they encounter along the way the Meltons kept their faith in God and their belief that their dreams would come true. When a hysterectomy stopped them from having another biological child of their own, they decided to adopt. When adopting a baby girl from China proved to be out of reach, they opted for a local adoption through social services. When they were not able to adopt the first children they fostered they continued to love other children in spite of their own heartache and vulnerability in doing so. When given the opportunity to keep 5 siblings together in one, loving home, they said “yes!” In the face of great disappointment at not being chosen by Extreme Makeover Home Edition they kept positive attitudes and they taught all 6 of their children the grace to being truly happy for someone else’s miracle instead of being bitter or jealous. When purchasing a new, larger home proved to be unaffordable, the Melton family decided to build on to their existing home. And when unforeseen credit issues made approval for their construction loan impossible, they found HOPE with a company who would help guide them through the process of rebuilding healthy credit again.

Life isn’t always easy and dreams often don’t come true without a fight. You may fall down a hundred times along your journey, but determine now that you will never stop getting back up again. Your dream is worth fighting for just like Todd and Melissa’s dream was worth overcoming every obstacle they encountered. The funny thing is I have a feeling that their dream is not quite through coming true just yet. A national television show may not have decided to build them a dream home, or to pay off their mortgage and debt, but who knows what the future may have in store…

Michelle Black is an 11+ year credit expert with HOPE4USA, a published author, the credit blogger at, a recognized credit expert on talk shows and podcasts nationwide, a contributor to the Wealth Section of Fort Mill Magazine, and  a regularly featured speaker at seminars up and down the East Coast. She is an expert on improving credit scores, budgeting, and recovering from identity theft. You can connect with Michelle on the HOPE Facebook page by clicking here.



New Home Closing!

Congratulations to a new HOPE homeowner! Here's a note that we just received: "Oh thanks so much...closing went GREAT!!!! So I thank you and your team for all your hard work in improving my credit!!!"

~K. Carr



I Just Closed On a Home!

We received an exciting email from a new HOPE graduate a few moments ago that we could not wait to share! "You have been wonderful and helped me to improve my credit score tremendously! I just closed on a home! Thank you for all your help!"

~Lisa C.

Congratulations Lisa. We are so excited that you will be spending the holidays in your new home!




I just want to thank you for all your help with repairing my credit. I am happy to say that I have qualified for a FHA loan and have made an offer which was just accepted today. My wife and I would not have been able to do this without your help. Thank you for helping me make my home a reality.  Thank you again for helping me to recover my credit and climb out of debt. This house means so much more to my wife and I considering how far we have had to come to get here.

Thank you everyone on the HOPE staff for all of your support.


Chris T.